The choiceless choice


Recently, a thunderbolt struck me and I shared it with friends. I saw that when I’m not operating under grace, my actions and results are hard-won, limited and subject to reversal at the earliest opportunity. Under grace, everything turns to gold. There is only ever one thing for me to do: get present to grace. The rest takes care of itself.

This week I’m applying the insight to a business issue that I’ve been ignoring, hoping it would just go away. Now that I’ve decided to look at the issue, I got that instead of trying to force something, as I normally would, I can allow myself to wait for grace to arise. That’s where I am now. I’m committed to letting it take as long as it takes and not engaging in busywork (to cover up the nothingness) in the meantime.

The following passage from Chögyam Trungpa discusses this same insight or experience. He calls it the choiceless choice. Have you experienced it too? What do you call it in your private moments? What impact has it had on your life?


“You would like to use strategy to control the chaos, but in reality, you can’t control the chaos in any way. If you try to control it, then you’re asking for more chaos by trying to control it. That’s a well-known effect.

Self-confidence does not come from control. If you have a certain conceptual notion of self-confidence, that view has to be constantly maintained. That kind of self-confidence is going in the wrong direction. If it is built on the wrong foundation, then automatically it is weakened.

Chaos is actually a sign there is tremendous energy or force available in the situation. If you try to blindly alter the energy, then you are interfering with the energy pattern. For one thing, you become much more self-conscious. Then you are not able to see where the energy is actually occurring in the situation.

The alternative is to go along with the energy. This means, in a sense, doing nothing with the energy, as though it were some independent force. When you go along with what is happening, you uncover the real energy in the situation and then you are able to relate with the situations fully, in a true way, a complete way.

In order to accept or reject something in your experience, you have to see the complete picture to begin with. Otherwise, you have no idea what the right thing to do is. Acceptance might be the skilful choice, or rejecting might be skilful.

Before you make a choice, you should find a choiceless quality which exists as an element of the situation …

If you blindly accept something, you might be inflicting pain on yourself, or you might be over-indulging in pleasure which brings future pain. Blindly rejecting things, on the other hand, is usually based on aggression or fear. Before you make any choice, you should try to see the choiceless aspect which is always there in any situation. You have to feel it. You have to relate with things as they are, and then you can reject or accept. Within the overall experience of seeking to understand things, as they are, you actually include all the possibilities of rejecting and accepting the situation altogether …

If you can work that way completely, then rejecting, if necessary, becomes a natural process, and accepting, if necessary, becomes a natural process.

You communicate with the situation completely without any judgement.”





Words from Work, Sex and Money by Chögyam Trungpa; images from the recent exhibition at NGV Melbourne, A Golden Age of China, Qianlong Emperor, 1736-1795: 1. Empress’s ceremonial court headdress, Qing Dynasty; gold, pearls, sable, silk floss, kingfisher feathers, precious stones; The Palace Museum, Beijing; 2. Emperor’s ceremonial court robe, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong period 1736-1795; silk satin (note the cuffs of the robe which are designed to look like horses’ hooves; many of the possessions of the Emperors of the Qing Dynasty are designed to remind the bearers of their Manchu heritage as horsemen); 3. Qianlong Emperor in ceremonial armour on horseback by Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian Jesuit whose paintings were much prized by the Emperor; Castiglione lived in China from the age of 26 until his death in 1766.



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